Since January, I have embarked on an amazing and terrifying journey. I am 32 years old, last played football as a freshman in college, and am trying to make the Twin City Dawgs, a semi-professional football team that plays their home games in Chenoa. To read more about his journey, you can read about my Glory Days, and about my first experience as Pastor Dawg.
I stand on the line. One man is next to me. He is my ally. There is another man behind us. He carries a ball, and wants to carry it for as long as possible. We are offense. Two men stand across from us. Another man stands behind them. Their job is to stop the man with the ball.
As I take my stance, there is little time to think. Little time to process what is about to happen. It is so incredibly simple. I am to launch myself at the man across from me. We are going to collide. Hard. There is about two seconds between when I put my hand down and when the whistle blows. I’m not even sure who stands across from me. He is big. I need to fire off, be quick. Explode. I haven’t done this in eleven years. I visualize quickly what I want to happen: We collide, I punch with both arms upward into his pads, using them as a lever. I am lower, and use that as an advantage to push him backwards. The man with the ball behind me goes by us untouched.
That’s not what happens. The whistle blows, I launch myself at him, but he steps a little to the side. I graze him as he skirts around me and tackles the man with the ball. Not exactly what I was hoping for.
It is someone else’s turn. I’m a little dismayed, but not defeated. It is my turn again, and quickly. I step into the line again. “Don’t make the same mistake,” I think. Fire off, but under control. Don’t lunge. He has to come to me too. The whistle blows. We collide. This time the collision is square. I stand him up. I try to drive him back, but he’s not going anywhere, so I try to wall him off to the outside. The man with the ball sees the direction I am turning my man, and he adjusts accordingly. He runs by untouched.
I win this one. I want to let out a whoop. I am too winded. It’s going to be my turn again in about 45 seconds.
My experience as a Twin City Dawg went to a new level yesterday. Tuesday was the first day with pads, but I had a stomach virus since Sunday night, and spent the previous 48 hours before practice in close proximity to a bathroom. Thursday night was my first practice withpads. It felt good. Really good. I got beat up, bruised, and scraped, but as I drove home I felt amazing. I filled in as a right tackle a lot, and got a lot of reps. My problem was I was a little too cautious. Cautious is a bad thing to be on a football field. Standing still is dangerous. Once when I wasn’t sure where to go I stood a little bit, and a running back ran into me pretty hard.
The other aspect of me playing football – the evangelical part – is also going well. It has opened doors to new relationships in places I would not have expected it. Like I said at the outset, I am not going around preaching to anyone. All I want to do while on the football team is build relationships. The guys know that I am a pastor. Most of them are starting to call me “Preacher.” In time, if someone asks me to pray – I’ll be happy to do so. If someone asks me about my church, I am happy to tell them. If someone asks me a question about faith, I’d be willing to listen. I hope all of my teammates would agree that I have not pushed myself as a “pastor” on anyone.
At a recent Christian youth retreat though, where the fact that I was a pastor was a given, the fact that I am playing football helped. I don’t want to get into the specifics of how it happened, but me playing football created common ground with some of the guys. We talked about football for awhile, which then lead to more serious questions. It lead to very helpful spiritual and practical discussion
When I started this, I had a few goals in mind, and all of them are looking good.
1. Don’t get hurt. So far, so good. I’ve been using our ice packs a lot more, but I’m still good.
2. Have some fun playing football. There is nothing better.
3. Get in better shape. I have lost some weight, and gained some strength.
4. Build relationships that may or may not lead to spiritual exchanges. Already started in surprising places.
5. Inspire others. Not sure, but I haven’t really told a lot of people yet either.
Twin City Dawgs Roster (Notice that I have the number of my favorite TE of all-time, prize for the one that guesses who it is)